It’s said truth is stranger than fiction. With the meaning behind it being that sometimes fictional events described in books, movies etc. can’t hold a candle to real-life ones, which are more remarkable. And if one weren’t to know that they are indeed true and real, one would assume that what he is being talked about is fiction. And of the badly written sort, at that.
However, life can indeed be more remarkable than fiction and nowhere is this point driven home better than in the case of some authors who apart from their known careers, were also spies for various governments. In some cases, the tales of their real-life spying adventures are just as exciting as those of the characters that they created in their fictional works. If not more so. And in others, the non-fictional works they wrote serve as a complementary part to their secret side.
Let’s take a look at the secretive sides of 5 authors also spies in their non-writing hours.
1. Ian Fleming
You know James Bond, right? Then you should also know the man that first brought him to life by his novels, the author and journalist Ian Fleming. But he wasn’t just an author and journalist. In fact, surprise surprise, Mr. Fleming actually served as a naval intelligence officer (yes, spy) during World War II.
And not only that, but his rank was higher than that of the character James Bond who was just an “agent”, while Mr. Fleming was the assistant to the British Chief of Naval Intelligence, so right below the big boss. Which big boss would become the character M in the novels.
As I’m sure you’re starting to see what happened here, yes, many things portrayed in the novel are altered versions of real life events from Ian Fleming’s experiences.
Oh, and “Goldeneye”. He planned the real, historical operation that took place during World War II.
And planning war operations is not the only area in which he was skilled. He was also very knowledgeable about anything from trees, flowers and fashion to guns, and going through languages, wine, food and geography.
As regards women, there too he was most apt. An interesting example being the divorce of Ann Charteris from the second Viscount Rothermere, due to her affair with Fleming.
2. Christopher Marlowe
Another English author, but this time from the Elizabethan era, the man was the greatest writer of tragedies of his time. Which is quite an achievement when you are not only contemporary to Shakespeare, but born in the same year!
In fact, Marlowe greatly influenced Shakespeare and invented the blank verse that the latter would use profusely and masterfully in his plays. And if he hadn’t died at a young age, critics claim that they’d be hard pressed to say if Shakespeare would have remained in the second place or not.
How did he die? Well, under very mysterious circumstances. Stabbed to death by dubious personages who happened to have enduring connections to Thomas Walsingham and Sir Francis Walsingham, both of them very much spies for the Queen of England.
And Marlowe himself had been a spy for England in France, when he was in his university years.
A few days before his death an arrest warrant had been issued on his name, for allegations of blasphemy.
Historians are to this day unable to determine whether his death was connected to him having bothered the monarchy in some way, or some other powerful group like the church, or just an unfortunate unrelated murder by shady gangsters.
3. Robert Erskine Childers
Though towards the end of his life he was a die-hard supporter of Irish independence and a member and spy of the radical group Sinn Fein, in service of which he got executed by the newly formed Irish group that wanted to be part of Britain, he was an Englishman, born in London.
And not only that, but he also received the Distinguished Service Cross decoration for his deeds in the Mediterranean during the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I.
His slow turn into an Irish supporter probably has to do with many experiences that influenced him and changed his mind about the Empire and is a complex matter that historians have written about in their analyses.
But initially, he was very concerned for the well-fare of Great Britain, which is demonstrated by him writing a book called “The Riddle of the Sands”, which turned out to be ahead of its time because it warned in very strong terms about the German build-up of power and Britain’s unpreparedness against such a threat.
The book was written in 1903, before both World War I and II. And Churchill later used it to influence public opinion towards supporting the wars.
4. Allen Dulles
Allen Dulles’ writing career wasn’t a very long one. But it stands out for one thing. The book he wrote called “The Boer War: A History” was written when he was just 8 years old, in 1902. It was published by his grandfather on his mother’s side who was Secretary of State back then.
So, who knows, maybe he thought that being an author is too easy and he needs something more challenging.
Enter his career (not at 8 years old, but a bit later in life) as the Director of CIA.
He also has two records in this capacity to boot. He is the first civilian director of the agency. And he is the one that spent the longest time in this position to-date, with the 9 years he put into it from 1952 to 1961 when he was forced to resign.
Though a controversial figure, he’s more remarkable than many spy novel characters.
5. Henry Graham Greene
Born in England at the beginning of the 20th century, he would turn out to be one of this century’s greatest authors, with over 25 novels written during the course of 67 years of writing.
One of his achievements is to have been simultaneously admired by the literary critics and the general public at the same time (due to his style of writing which managed to combine complexity with a tone that many could relate to), which is usually difficult to do.
His novels include the spy novel classic The Heart of the Matter and Our Man in Havana, the latter of which subtly makes fun of secret services.
And Greene sure knew his stuff, because he was a spy himself, having been recruited in the MI6 by his sister Elizabeth, reportedly on account of his many travels around the world’s remote and dangerous places which indicated he could be an asset in such locations.
This seems to have worked out as he was posted as an agent in Sierra Leone during the second World War.
His reckless pursuit of adventure and excitement coupled with the things he saw first hand as an agent allowed him to create some very interesting spy novels (and not only spy novels).